About Us

Our Roots

DEA is a full service aircraft operator with extensive ISR flight capability backed up by a skilled in-house aviation engineering team. This powerful combination puts us at the forefront of our industry, both in the air and on the ground. It also ensures we are able to deploy and support quickly and efficiently, even in the world’s most challenging environments

DEA can trace its roots back to 2006 when it began as a specialist charter company with a single DA42 aircraft. The company grew, acquiring more aircraft and fulfilling contracts across Europe, Africa and into Asia.

Following significant investment in 2014, and the subsequent recruitment of a new leadership team, the business has gone from strength to strength. DEA has built an impressive reputation as a preeminent provider of airborne intelligent surveillance and reconnaissance services in Europe.  

Our People

Our team spans every aspect of aviation and collectively draws upon decades of experience in both civilian and military operations.

Gerald Cooper

CEO / Accountable Manager

Gerald has a wealth of flying, engineering and management experience in the aviation industry which spans more than three decades. He has led DEA since taking the helm in 2016. A qualified Specialised Operations Commercial Pilot and Licensed Aircraft Engineer, Gerald has also previously held various management positions in a variety of aviation. Gerald is also one of the world’s most accomplished pilots: British National Unlimited Aerobatic Champion since 2009, ranked in the world top 10 since 2007 and current European Freestyle Champion.

I believe the combination of people, skills, experience and capability that DEA brings together puts us in a unique position, both on the ground and in the air. We’re leading the way in the delivery of specialist operations backed up by innovative technology and a highly professional team. It’s an exciting time for our business as we continue to grow and diversify, working collectively to meet the evolving needs of our customers.” 

Dicky Patounas

Director Business Development

Dicky’s first career spanned 26 years in the Royal Air Force. Highlights included being one of the youngest ever pilots to join the Red Arrows (when he was just 27); helping to bring the Eurofighter Typhoon into service in 2002; becoming Red 1, the Leader of the Red Arrows; spending a year in Australia to complete an MA in Defence Studies before working as a MOD strategic planner; and Commanding No.3 (Fighter) Squadron flying the Eurofighter Typhoon where he led the Typhoon force on combat operations. Dicky’s final role was as a strategic adviser to the Senior Generals of Coalition Air Forces.

I retired from the RAF in 2015 and joined DEA as the Director of Business Development. It has been a privilege to play a key part in the rapid growth of this exciting company. We have a great team of talented and experienced personnel from across, both the military and civilian sectors. As a result we are a highly qualified and accredited aviation organisation, with mature systems and processes, guaranteeing the highest standards of safety, environmental responsibility and quality.” 

Richard Cucksey

Finance Director

On joining DEA in 2014, Richard brought over 20 years of finance experience in various commercial environments, including leading the finance function for ENER-G Group – a renewable energy company, and Rand Group – a multidisciplinary construction business. Richard is experienced in most commercial matters and has proven finance skills in all core areas including cash management, management accounts, budgeting, forecasting, financial strategy, stakeholder and banking relationships.

DEA is agile enough to respond to operational and financial challenges and is actively embracing competitive pricing and opportunities for sustained growth. It’s an exciting time to be in the aviation industry, especially as part of a business that has a focused vision for the future. And as the only non-flyer on the exec team, I’m also feeling the itch to learn to fly!” 

Ed Grindrod

Head of Engineering and the Continuing Airworthiness Manager

Ed is an experienced aviation engineer with a background in the RAF as well as aerial surveys, business jets and the offshore industry. Ed joined DEA in 2016 to head up the ground-based engineering and airworthiness team based at Retford airport. Prior to that, Ed served as an RAF Aircraft Mechanic on Puma and Wessex helicopters and Boeing 707 Sentry aircraft. His subsequent career has included maintaining business jets, helicopters, and piston and turboprop aircraft. Ed is an experienced team manager and licenced aircraft engineer holding EASA B and C licenses for rotary and Fixed wing aircraft, FAA A&P IA Certificate and CAA form 4 approval for Continuing Airworthiness.

It’s a pleasure to lead DEA’s experienced and proactive team of aviation engineers. We all enjoy working towards a common goal, finding new ways to leverage the wealth of knowledge we have in-house to the advantage of our clients. On a more personal note, I’m also keen to do what I can to support new aircraft engineers coming into our industry.”  

Sally Varley

Head of Ground Operations

Sally is one of the more recent additions to the DEA senior team, joining the business in late 2017 to lead the ground operations team. A seasoned aviation veteran, Sally spent 24 years in the RAF in various roles, most recently as Airport Operations Manager at RAF Valley and subsequently as Team Manager of the Red Arrows. An experienced operations professional, Sally ensures DEA clients can confidently rely on the safe and effective delivery of aviation services, including in some of the most challenging environments in the world.

No two days at DEA are ever the same! Because our remit is so varied and specialised, it’s vital that the ground operations team work effectively together with our airborne colleagues to achieve seamless and integrated delivery. Our team is made up of like-minded, motivated and dedicated aviation professionals – and our teamwork is second to none.”  

John Dundon

Head of Flight Operations and Director of Training

John is one of DEA’s longest serving members of the senior team and was involved in the business when DEA first became an AOC operator. A pilot since 1982, John’s career highlights including flying a Royal Naval Lynx helicopter from small ships primarily tracking Russian submarines during the Cold War; 8 years as part of the Royal Naval Elementary Flying Training Squadron; and an exchange with the RAF in Elementary Flying Training Standards at RAF Cranwell. John was then responsible for operating Bagby International Airfield for 9 years before joining DEA.

Delivering a specialised, high quality service to our customers is a great adventure at times, especially when our pilots deliver exceptional results by skilfully operating small aircraft to their limits in challenging environments around the world. We’re keen to attract and keep the very best pilots and committed to introducing new types of aircraft into the world of specialist airborne operations.” 

Lee Scott

Senior Business Development Manager

Lee has more than four decades of experience in aviation operations and joined the DEA team in 2017. Key roles included Airport Operations Manager at Durham Tees Valley Airport, Head of Ground Operations for Cobham Flight Inspection and Flight Inspection Manager at Flight Calibration Services Limited. He has been responsible for worldwide planning and scheduling of aircraft and personnel in 26 countries as well as managing Air Operations throughout the UK, Europe, Middle East and North Africa.

DEA has a team which can respond quickly to our customers’ requirements with the strategic resource planning and commitment to ensure we can deliver new opportunities, respond to new markets and widen our geographical coverage.” 


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